KUALA LUMPUR • Kento Momota could be out for two months after a road accident, derailing the build-up of his bid for a maiden Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020.
He avoided serious injury hours after winning his first Malaysia Masters when the van he and three others took to the airport in Kuala Lumpur on Monday crashed into the back of a 30-tonne truck, killing the driver.
The Japanese world No. 1 had a broken nose, fractured cheekbone and needed stitches on his lips but is expected to be discharged from hospital today before flying home.
His return has been pencilled in for the All England Championships on March 11 and Kinji Zeniya, the secretary-general of Japan's Badminton Association, wants the player to take his time to recuperate despite his "extraordinary enthusiasm towards the Olympics".
He said: "Cuts will be healed, but what will happen to the bruising later? I know injuries from car accidents can emerge after some time."
Momota, who is the favourite for the gold after winning a record-breaking 11 titles last year, has been forced to withdraw from this week's Indonesia Masters.
But retired Malaysian great Lee Chong Wei is confident the Japanese will "put this incident behind him" after visiting the 25-year-old at the Putrajaya Hospital yesterday.
Drawing parallels with the ankle injury he suffered just three months before the 2012 London Olympics, Lee said: "I was worried that I would not be able to play at my best... But I still trained, even taking painkillers at that time.
"I know Momota is also made of the same stuff... He should be all right for the Olympics."
Park Joo-bong, the head coach of Japan, is also confident that his charge will be ready. "Once Momota was stable, he asked about his condition... he asked me if he could still play," said the South Korean.
"I assured him that all he needed now was to sleep and recover. Everything has been settled, he does not have to worry.
I know Momota is also made of the same stuff (as me)... He should be all right for the Olympics.
LEE CHONG WEI, former Malaysia world No. 1, is confident Kento Momota can bounce back from injury like he did for the London Olympics.
"I have confidence that Momota will be on his feet after a good recovery to continue with his Olympic Games preparation."
It could have been worse. Park, who rushed to the accident site after receiving the dreaded phone call, saw the crumpled front part of the van and fear gripped him.
The driver, Bavan Nageswarau, 24, died at the scene.
Assistant coach Yu Hirayama, 35, had facial injuries and injured her right leg, while 42-year-old physiotherapist Morimoto Akifumi suffered a broken hand.
Badminton World Federation technical officer William Thomas, 30, had leg injuries and received seven stitches to his head.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ASIA NEWS NETWORK/THE STAR